Don’t Worry, Be Happy! What Stress Does To Your Waistline
Long (long) ago stressors in human life were hunting dinner, fleeing a lion’s teeth or surviving famine. Our bodies were made to handle this stress through the adrenal glands which release hormones to deal with our current stress level. You’ve no doubt heard of the “fight-or-flight” response, that kicks your adrenal glands into gear by releasing adrenaline (or epinephrine), norepinephrine and cortisol into the bloodstream. These hormones affect the body in many ways, including:
- Increased heart rate
- Blood is directed away from seemingly extraneous needs (skin) and directed towards muscle (to out run that lion)
- Maintain fluid balance, blood sugar and blood pressure
- Suppress non-essential functions like digestion and immunity
- Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism (to provide energy needed to deal with the threat)
These effects come in handy in a life-threatening situation, however the chronic stress of today’s world leaves us with a near constant stream of these hormones in our bodies. With chronic stress, the cortisol that metabolizes glucose, fats and amino acids (carbs, fats and proteins) thinks we need extra energy to out run a predator and doesn’t realize we’re freaking out because we’re stuck in traffic and will be late to pick up the kids from school. That extra energy isn’t needed and gets stored – you guessed it – mainly around our midsection. Awesome! So now we have extra fat in our system, our heart rate is slightly elevated, our blood pressure is high and our immune system is low. Constantly.
So, you’re over committed and mentally stressed from too many projects and too little sleep, and the belly fat you seem unable to get rid of (thanks adrenal glands!) won’t budge. You crave simple carbs and fatty foods – remember, you need it to outlast that famine – so your next move is to cram in 30 minutes of intense intervals on the treadmill. You’ve just added yet another stressor to your system. Now you’re tired and drained of energy, hungry for a bagel with Nutella but can’t fall asleep because your system is internally on high alert.
You’re one of the many experiencing what’s referred to as Adrenal Fatigue. While not officially recognized as a medical condition in the U.S., Adrenal Fatigue is a host of related signs and symptoms, like those mentioned above, signaling your adrenal glands – and related hormones – are out of whack.
Hope is not lost, and with patience and time you can work your way back to a balanced system.
Here are some tips on getting your body in check!
Aim for a balanced diet of whole foods
Eat at regular intervals (don’t wait until you’re starving to eat)
Stock healthy foods at hand; snacks like string cheese, almonds, and fresh fruit are ideal
Avoid over caffeinating. Too much adds more stress on the adrenal glands – exactly what you want to avoid
Get your omega 3s and help reduce inflammation and cortisol production
Treat Your Body Right
Sleep! This is when your body recovers. Aim for 7-9 hours.
Get to bed earlier by avoiding stimulants (phone, email, TV, heavy foods) at least 30 minutes before.
Exercise to feel good. Pounding in a workout will make matters worse, go for a relaxing walk or any activity that gets you moving but enhances your energy, not zapping it.
Find Your Happy
Take time to do things you enjoy purely for yourself. A long bath, a good book, your favorite beer (or all three!).
Enjoy the moment you’re in (this takes practice!) by taking things one at a time.
Make a mental choice to move on from a bad moment/situation and look for the good.
While these steps are simple in understanding, they aren’t always as easy to implement. If you’d like guidance on finding balance and living your ideal life, my Health Coaching may be for you. To explore what’s possible, email me at Samantha@simplywellcoaching.com and let’s talk!
For more information, check out Adrenal Fatigue Solution where you can explore adrenal fatigue symptoms, causes and treatment options in-depth. Also, take a few minutes to take the quiz and learn where you fall in the realm of adrenal fatigue. The e-book is highly informative so don’t miss it!